Cardboard Cinema: The Designer of ‘Ghostbusters: The Board Game’ on How You Adapt a Franchise and the New Sequel Game
Posted on Monday, April 11th, 2016 by Jacob Hall
Cryptozoic’s Ghostbusters: The Board Game was a gigantic success on Kickstarter, raising over $1.5 million from gamers and movie fans who wanted to relive one of the most beloved franchises of all time. But since the original Ghostbusters film went on to inspire a sequel, a reboot, several cartoon spin-offs, a video game, and more than its fair share of toys, a tabletop follow-up was inevitable. Today, Cryptozoic launched the Kickstarter for Ghostbusters: The Board Game II, a standalone game that can be played by itself or in combination with the original game.
I had the opportunity to speak with Mataio Wilson, the lead designer on Ghostbusters: The Board Game and its sequel, about what it’s like to adapt a beloved movie into a tabletop experience, how his past history with Dungeons & Dragons inspired this game, and what the sequel will bring to the table for experienced players and newbies alike.
Before you dive into my conversation with Wilson, you can watch the Kickstarter video for Ghostbusters: The Board Game II below and head over to the project’s page, should you decide to back the game. Naturally, backers will receive bonus stuff that won’t be available in the final retail version.
And here’s the official press release, which runs down the basic details:
Cryptozoic Entertainment (cryptozoic.com), leading creator of board games, trading cards, and collectibles, and Sony Pictures Consumer Products are proud to announce today’s launch of the Kickstarter campaign for Ghostbusters: The Board Game II.
This new campaign, on Kickstarter today, is crafted with fans in mind and includes the following contents in the base game: 54 Miniatures including 4 Courtroom Ghostbusters, 4 Slime Blower Ghostbusters, The Scoleri Brothers and Vigo the Carpathian plus 12 double-sided map tiles, custom dice and tokens, some of which can be used for advanced gameplay variants. Two expansions starring Louis Tully and Slimer as playable characters are also available for backers starting today.
Ghostbusters: The Board Game II features an original story by IDW Comics’ Ghostbusters writer Erik Burnham in which Vigo and his minions return to the city, causing rioting and earthquakes to break out all over The Big Apple! Comic book artist Dan Schoening also returns with his signature Ghostbusters style. Ghostbusters: The Board Game II’s cooperative gameplay and modular design allow for highly customizable scenarios and nearly endless re-playability. This stand-alone expansion lets players hop in the Ecto-1a for a quick half hour session, or strap on their Proton Packs for a full-fledged ghostbusting campaign, making it the perfect game for board game veterans and beginners alike.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What’s your personal history with the Ghostbusters? Were you a fan first or were you a designer who just landed a job?
I was a huge fan. Despite seeing both movies repeatedly, I also grew up in the ’80s and the ’90s so I got to watch The Real Ghostbusters, The Extreme Ghostbusters, and Slimer! with Dr. Dweeb. I read all of the comic books and owned all of the toys. I was already a super-fan when I joined the company and it was on my second day at Cryptozoic when they said “Hey, we’re working on a Ghostbusters game, do you want to take a crack at it?” And I just tried to bite my lip and not pee myself and I dove right into it. I was so excited because I had so much history with the franchise, but I didn’t know what was available. But when I was informed that Sony gave us open license and we could have anything we wanted, this was before the new movie was announced, I was able to dig as deep as I wanted. I didn’t have to cut my imagination off anywhere.
Is there a board game pitching process? Do different designers come forward with different takes?
There are different processes depending on the property or the timeframe that we have. Sometimes it’s presented to us as license where we have all of these different avenues we can take with the property, from merchandise to games to trading cards. If we can’t come up with something good enough, we just don’t do it. We’d rather not put out something we’re not proud of just to fill a hole. When they first had the board game opportunity and I first joined the company as a contractor, there was already a dozen iterations of the game. It just wasn’t falling into a place that we were happy with yet. When I took it on, it wasn’t with the assumption of, oh sweet, this will be the game, it was that I had to make a game that I enjoy playing that will look like a commercially successful game that the fans will like and an introductory board game people will like and people who play board games will like as well. We had all of these different avenues to look at. One day, we got word that we could move forward with a Kickstarter version of it. That usually changes the project’s size from “What’s the max we could put into it and shave everything around the edge?” to “What’s everything that you could possibly think of?” Kickstarter will give us the opportunity to put everything that’s good in the game that we had to leave out because of size and shipping.
When I started working on it, it was about what kind of game I would like to play with the Ghostbusters. And when I look at the Ghostbusters and think about the games I enjoy, they fell into an RPG-party type of system. You had someone who could get the attention of a target, like Peter Venkman, shouting at ghosts or taunting them. We had a healer in the Ray character, who collects the slimes and is super curious. We have Egon, who is great with equipment and can build things. And we have Winston, who is like our support class character. With those in mind, we restructured the game so that the experience you had also worked from scenario to scenario in a big campaign. It’s not just sitting down for an hour to play a game and restarting it the next time you play. It would carry the experience from game to game to game so you could form a bond with you character and feel that you’re actually being part of the situation.